Are Coffee Filters Compostable? (+ Important Tips)

Are coffee filters compostable? Yes, usually.

The trick is composting the right kinds of coffee filters and making sure you do it right.

But the good news? It’s really easy and really not that stressful.

In this article, I’ll explain which filters are compostable and how you can extend the life and uses of your coffee filters.

Let’s jump in!

Can I Compost My Coffee Filters?

used coffee filter and coffee ground

The short answer: usually. But it depends on what coffee filters you use.

Coffee filters are almost always paper filters. But you can find filters that are metal or even linen.

Filters that aren’t paper usually aren’t compostable. But the good news is that those filters are reusable, which helps reduce your brew’s environmental impact.

If you want a reusable coffee filter, I would recommend looking for cloth coffee filters. A cloth filter is closest to a paper filter in terms of use and taste.

With paper filters, there are actually two different kinds:

  • Bleached coffee filter. These filters are whitened coffee filters. The chemicals don’t add any taste to your coffee and are safe to use. Bleached filters are slightly worse for the environment because they are processed more.
  • Unbleached coffee filter. These filters are brown and not as processed. But you need to rinse them before brewing to ensure you don’t get unwanted flavors in your cup.

But the bleach content shouldn’t really concern you. There isn’t enough bleach in the filters to cause any harm or really change the taste of your coffee.

Composting a bleached coffee filter is possible, but then your compost won’t be organic.

You can absolutely compost unbleached coffee filters.

But you might be thinking that there are many kinds of paper coffee filters. Like basket style filters or Chemex filters. And you’d be right.

The bottom line is that whether bleached or unbleached, all of them are compostable coffee filters.

The differences in thickness, size, and chemicals change how the filters decompose, but they all will eventually.

IN A NUTSHELL
Yes, you can compost any paper coffee filter. Bleached or unbleached, and regardless of size, any paper filter is compostable.

How long does it take filters to decompose?

As I mentioned above, the differences in size and chemicals change the decomposing process for coffee filters.

The time of year, the humidity, the age of the filter itself, and the type of filter will all change how long it takes your filter to decompose.

But typically, it takes between 6-8 months for coffee filters to completely decompose. That’s a pretty typical timeline for organic compost.

You just have to make sure you’re taking care of your compost and turn your filter every week or so to speed up the composting process.

One tip for composting coffee filters: don’t let them dry out. Keeping moisture in the coffee filter as it is decomposing will speed up the process.

BOTTOM LINE
Coffee filters usually take about 6-8 months to decompose.

Can I also compost the coffee grounds?

using coffee and coffee filters as compost

You can absolutely compost used coffee grounds.

In fact, coffee grounds are generally considered a great ingredient to add to your compost because of their nitrogen content.

You might think that coffee grounds aren’t great because of coffee’s acidity. And you’d be right, coffee is pretty acidic.

But the acid in coffee is water soluble. That means that almost all of the acid in coffee makes its way into our cups and doesn’t stick around in the grounds.

That makes composting coffee grounds ideal because they end up with pretty neutral acidity.

Decomposing spent coffee grounds do tend to smell pretty rank. And they tend to harden and cake, which slows down the decomposing process.

BOTTOM LINE
You can and absolutely should compost your coffee grounds. It’s very beneficial to your soil and is incredibly easy to compost.

How to Compost Your Coffee Filters

If you’re familiar with composting, then these steps will sound pretty familiar.

But if you’re just getting into composting and are wondering how to compost coffee filters and grounds, here’s how I do it:

  1. Break the filter up into smaller pieces. This speeds up the process and allows you to spread out the grounds and filter.
  2. On that note, spread out the filter and the grounds, so they don’t harden and cake in one spot. If you notice that the grounds have hardened, make an extra effort to break up the cake and spread the coffee grounds around. This will speed up the process.
  3. Mix up the filter and grounds with the rest of your compost. This keeps the moisture in your compost and prevents the coffee grounds from hardening. If things do get too dry, you can always add a little bit of water to keep moisture in your compost.

Honestly, it’s really easy to compost coffee and coffee filters. It’s as simple as tossing a used coffee filter into your compost pile.

It really isn’t much more complicated than that.

Ways You Can Reuse Your Coffee Filters

If you don’t want to compost but also don’t want to simply throw away your coffee filters, then there are some clever ways to reuse them:

  • Use the filter again. I know it sounds strange, but you can actually reuse coffee filters as coffee filters. All you have to do is dump the used grounds and let the filter dry out. Then it’s good to go again to filter another brew. Typically they last for 2-3 cups of coffee before you should think about tossing or composting it.
  • Strain cooking oil. Used coffee filters are great for straining cooking oil to use again. Straining cooking oil is a great way to extend the life of your oil and a good way to reuse the coffee filter. Simply place the coffee filter over a jar of used oil and pour the oil into a new jar for storage.
  • Glass wipes. Coffee filters actually make great glass surface wipes. They don’t leave any streaks or scratches.
  • Microwave moisture guard. Do you use a paper towel to help keep moisture on your leftovers in the microwave? You can actually replace that paper towel with a coffee filter for the same effect.

There are many ways to reuse coffee filters. But the best one is probably just using it again before you throw it in the compost heap.

Another option is to go for reusable coffee filters in the first place.

I would recommend looking into the cloth coffee filters instead of metal ones. I find the metal filter changes the taste of the coffee and is much harder to keep clean.

My Final Thoughts

The bottom line is that not only is it alright to compost coffee filters, but it’s also actually a good idea.

Coffee filters add a lot of nutrients to your compost. And you can even compost the coffee ground, too.

Don’t be afraid to toss used ground coffee and filters straight into the compost bin!

But for faster composting, spread the grounds and tear the filter into smaller bits.

Good luck!

Looking for the right coffee filter? Check out our article on the best coffee filters!

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Craig Carey
Craig spent a year as a barista in Denver's specialty coffee world. He spends his days rock climbing, cycling, drinking espresso, and hanging around the Rocky Mountains. He still lives in Colorado.